Part II- Irondale:
It's no surprise Jody is an excellent saleman, because she is an excellent communicator; she can talk to anyone, can understand and acknowledge anyone without judgment. (A very handy ability for a writer.)
So when Jaffarian meets Jody he recognizes the answer as to how to make money with these thousands of Irondale lots. She pitches him a set of encyclopedias; he pitches her a proposal they go into business together.
They soon form Scojaf and craft a direct sales campaign based on Jody's Britannica presentation (phone pitch followed by in-person pitch with sales kit-- in this case many maps, photos, brochures, etc). They place a small classified ad in The Little Nickel Newspaper (a thing made of paper that people used before Craig's list) and soon, with her handy Thompson's Guide (a thing made of paper that people used before GPS) and the street-numbering truism that "east is even," Jody is navigating all over Seattle selling vacation lots for $9 down and $9 per month.
She is a howling success. The checks are pouring in.
Jody has her head down, plowing those furrows like the good Capricorn she is, but poor Jaffarian goes a little nuts with the all the money and success. He trades in his wife for a newer, younger model, buys a sprawling estate in Escondido CA that once belonged to Harold Bell Wright, and eventually trades Scojaf for a boatload of Teletrans stock.
Teletrans, it turns out, is the product of a classic "pump-and-dump" scheme and therefore very soon worthless. (You can still find info about it on the internet with enough searching, because the shell of Teletrans was used again, post-internet, to conduct another "pump-and-dump" before being delisted by the Salt Lake City Exchange.)
To his credit Jaffarian feels bad and deeds the remaining lots to Jody in compensation. She continues to sell them directly, and carries the contracts. The monthly payments are by this time up to $29. And that money coming in steadily every month affords Jody the time to write. She writes Passing For Human which is published in 1977, the year that we meet.
Over the next several years I assist Jody in this enterprise and learn the business (an education worth many times the price of any college tuition), and as the stock of Irondale lots dwindles we begin to search for a new location where we can repeat what she's done with Irondale.
We find it in Okanogan County, which I will tell you all about next week.
Part I- Britannica:
Jody Scott, "the greatest writer you've never heard of," (F&SF Mag) and recipient of enough critical praise and peer recognition to choke a small pony, did not make money from her writing! And yet she wrote full time, 5 or 6 hours a day almost every day for 40 years without having also to hold down a job.
How she managed that has been the subject of some speculation. As Jody's spouse and business partner for 30 years I figured I would spill the beans here and now, entre nous as it were, as to exactly what we did to earn a living.
When Jody and I meet in the late '70's she is selling Irondale Lots. This becomes the model for the land business we will found a few years later. But to understand what Irondale was, how it worked and how it came about we need to flashback a couple decades.
Some time after the Leites and Berkeley and Circle Magazine, Jody meets OT Wood, a brilliant painter, but not a model of mental stability. She thinks to herself, 'We should make a baby together, it's bound to be brilliant.' So they do, make a baby together that is, but OT's mom commits suicide in LA and they decide California is for the birds and make the grueling, pre-interstate trek up Highway 99 to Seattle. At that time considered the uncivilized end of the world, just before you tumble off the map.
OT is worthless as a breadwinner and soon gone anyway. With a kid to support, no family or friends in the area, no money, no savings, no welfare state to fall back on, Jody answers an ad in the paper for an Encyclopedia Britannica sales position, gets the job and hires a babysitter- even though she has no money with which to pay the babysitter.
The training and sales routines for the "Sperm-of-the-Month club," in chapter 17 of I, Vampire is based on that Britannica experience.
With her usual determination and skill, Jody is a smashing success! The babysitter gets paid and the checks started rolling in. She even manages to pen a novel during these years, but selling is a job and like all jobs, if you stop doing it, it stops paying you.
There has to be a better way than selling all day, raising a child alone and squeezing in a little writing when time and exhaustion allow.
Enter E.P. Jeff Jaffarian, one time pal of Richard Nixon, sometime photographer and pornographer, recent tax auction purchaser of a platted-into-lots-but-since-reclaimed-by-the-forest town on the banks of Puget Sound called Irondale.
(continued next week)
"The expression “bread and circuses“ captures a certain cynical political view that the masses can be kept happy with fast food (think Cartman’s “Cheesy Poofs” on South Park) and faster entertainment (NASCAR races, NFL games, and the like)." -William Astore, Huffington Post
the more things change the more they stay the same.....
* * * * * * * *
From Jody's blog, circa 1995, and still apt today:
So here we are, standing on the courthouse steps, just the two of us. I've been meaning to talk to you for some time now--how is Justin? That's your hubby's name isn't it--Justin? Well I'm sure glad to hear that his obnostic diaphluvis is better after the operation, and you are lookin' wonderful yourself! You'd never know you had that, uh, whaddayacallit, removed--but I better hurry; it looks like rain. Look, over there on the roof of the Capitol Building it seems to be raining already and I see you have no umbrella so I'll make this as fast as possible.
I don't know about you, but this "edifice" we're standing in front of gives me the creeps and the Supreme Court is even worse. I hate the sight of that sucker. And I'll tell you why. All that type of phony Greco-Roman architecture, well, it just downright chills my blood. I think it's because I can't help thinking of humanity as a tribe of savages, you know? Oh I know we're supposed to keep saying "Aren't we wonderful!" over and over and patting ourselves on the back until we break an arm, but--
Gee. It seems to me that instead of being "wonderful" what we really are is a downtrodden race still ruled by the same old hierarchy, the same henchmen who've always passed the power down from father to son while they pretend to be Hotties all new and different, and so on. Know what I mean? We are war-crazed barbarians with our hands in each other's pockets, in love with Government-sponsored carnage--and now don't get me wrong, I think that humans are basically good and anyone who tries to teach you otherwise is nothing but a damn criminal. And speaking of teaching--
In my view, what's been done to ordinary folks is a high crime and they're not even aware of it. Ask yourself, "Am I being manipulated"--No, on second thought don't ask yourself that; it might drive you nuts. But are you aware that the people who use the word "Education" most often are those very people who have no idea of what the human mind is, or how to educate it? They've failed steadily for the last 2000 years and more because they are like Tommy Pickles, the hero of "Rugrats" who always says to the other babies, "Hey! I got a idea!"--and this is exactly what all your politicians are doing all the time. "Hey! I got a idea!" That's how we run all of our affairs. We are too infantile to have any genuine management skills or technologies (except the usual electronic tweakies, our sole specialty. Aren't we wonderful? Ohhhh, yeah).
All these rule-makers with their endless little Eureka schemes--but I was talking about the Supreme Court Building. You think piles like that are not constructed to intimidate us? "Look at me! I'm so Greco-Roman I'm about to DAH! Why, I'm just gorgeous! I AM Rome! I am Rome, hear me roar, you poor little jerks who can't even mark your ballots correctly. But just look at my big white columns! I'm so SERIOUS and IMPORTANT I can hardly stand it." Etc., etc., ad nauseum.
Personally I'm sick and tired of buildings that try to intimidate me. Take that guy Clarence Thomas for instance. He tours a group of high school kids and tells them "We Supremes always put our personal prejudices aside and do what is right." Is this lying hypocrisy or what would you call it? I wasn't consulted when they hired this guy (for LIFE! Can you imagine such an outrage to the so-called human spirit?) but in any case, I'm firing Clarence Thomas and hiring Gary Coleman in his place. Gary has assured me that he is an honest man and no hypocrite and will be happy to change his first name to Tom because a black gentleman called Tom is desperately needed on the Supremes--and, he can learn as much Law as the rest of them in six months of night school. So congratulations, Tom Coleman our new S.C. Justice, and long may you wave.
But anyway I was telling you, every time I see the S.C. Building I suffer a panic attack. "Oh my God, it's the Romans! Coming over the hill to wipe out our poor, sad, little, dirty, common-folk village! Run for cover you suckers, our Masters are about to give us what-for."
The truth is that Rome would be jealous of our cruel jailing of millions of non-violent people. They had nothing as spectacular as that. Nothing. All they had was a fair amount of roadside crucifixions--but it's a numbers game and the average Roman Emperor would seethe with jealousy over how many no-threat, non-violent folks we keep behind bars because it's truly phenomenal by any yardstick including the most brutal you can imagine.
Me, I've maintained that human society hasn't changed an iota since the days of the Caesars because people are in a deep, profound trance. You do all the Approved things but never feel truly satisfied, and I am here to change all that. But not right now--because big drops are beginning to patter down on us and the Courthouse steps are getting slipperier by the minute (if such a thing is possible) and --hear that deep-throated growl of thunder on the western horizon? Wow, it's really comin' down now so goodbye, we must hurry and rush off each to her separate destination (or "Fate" if you want to call it that)--and, hey: I look forward to our next conversation, because I really like you.
I like SF&F because it is speculative. It asks, 'What if....?'
What if what we believe to be 'immutable laws of reality' are in fact mutable?
What if alternate realities exist and reality is only an agreement? What if it's an implant? Are we capable of being more than we think?
When humans eventually become a space-faring species, what will we find out there? What might other civilizations and life forms look like?
How far is too far to imagine?
Oh sure plenty of SF&F writing is awful dreck, derivative and poorly written, but that's true of every category of writing (it's time than winnows out the chaff and leaves only the wheat), and the best speculative fiction is sublimely imaginative and thought-provoking. It can expand our notions of what is possible, and what we are.
It is said, "A civilization is only as great as its dreams, and its dream are dreamed by artists."
When a literary artist writes speculative fiction, those are lofty dream indeed!
Jody didn't think in terms of genres, but that "What If...?" fired her imagination and intellect, sent her considerable abilities to the wild and far-out horizons she explored in her novels. It's why she wrote what she wrote, and why a lot of it came to be classified as "speculative fiction."
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